THE GOP'S LEARS
In New York magazine, Jonathan Chait tries to understand why Republicans are trying to win in 2012 with the policies (and prejudices) of the past, instead of modifying their message for a culturally and eemographically altered future:
... the party has decided to bet everything on its one “last chance.” Not the last chance for the Republican Party to win power -- there will be many of those, and over time it will surely learn to compete for nonwhite voters -- but its last chance to exercise power in its current form, as a party of anti-government fundamentalism powered by sublimated white Christian identity politics....
During the last midterm elections, the strategy succeeded brilliantly. Republicans moved further right and won a gigantic victory. In the 2010 electorate, the proportion of voters under 30 fell by roughly a third, while the proportion of voters over 65 years old rose by a similar amount -- the white share, too. In the long run, though, the GOP has done nothing at all to rehabilitate its deep unpopularity with the public as a whole, and has only further poisoned its standing with Hispanics. But by forswearing compromise, it opened the door to a single shot. The Republicans have gained the House and stand poised to win control of the Senate. If they can claw out a presidential win and hold on to Congress, they will have a glorious two-year window to restore the America they knew and loved, to lock in transformational change, or at least to wrench the status quo so far rightward that it will take Democrats a generation to wrench it back....
On the other hand, if they lose their bid to unseat Obama, they will have mortgaged their future for nothing at all. And over the last several months, it has appeared increasingly likely that the party’s great all-or-nothing bet may land, ultimately, on nothing. In which case, the Republicans will have turned an unfavorable outlook into a truly bleak one in a fit of panic....
Is that it? Are Republicans doing this because they're panicking?
I don't think so. I think there have to be a few Republicans who think course corrections would be fine -- on immigration (obviously Karl Rove tried to make changes to the party's position during the Bush years) and possibly on issues like militarism and the drug war (surely it can't have escaped mainstream Republicans' attention that the only Republican in America who's popular with young people is Ron Paul).
But you have to think about who's running the Republican Party -- and I mean really running it, which means I'm referring to corporate sugar daddies and the head of the party's de facto media wing. Look at the group and you see that we're talking about a lot of very rich, very old, very traditional right-wing men.
Rupert Murdoch turns 81 this year. Sheldon Adelson turns 79. Foster Friess turns 71. Bob Perry (Swift Boat Vets, the campaigns of the unrelated Rick Perry) turns 80. David Koch turns 72, and Charles Koch turns 77.
These are the King Lears of the Republican Party. They're not quite at the point of dividing up the Republican kingdom, but they want whatever power they cede (in the form of money or, in Murdoch's case, media attention) to go to people who love what they love and hate what they hate -- which means that the GOP is still the party of social conservatism, culture-war bashing of non-whites and coastal "elitists," the Cold War morphed into the War on Terrorism, low taxes, deregulation, and petroleum forever.
Get rid of these guys and maybe you can remake the party. Problem is, you can't get rid of these guys, because they own the party.